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Remarks During a Conference Call With Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the Federal Republic of Germany and Crewmembers of the Space Shuttle Columbia

December 05, 1983

The President. Greetings from Washington. Chancellor Kohl is with us all the way from Athens, Greece; along with you astronauts hovering in space, with me here in Washington, and the whole world listening, this is one heck of a conference call.

Seriously though, this space shuttle mission represents the enormous potential available to mankind. The Spacelab, in which the experiments are being carried out, was designed and built by the European Space Agency. The Federal Republic of Germany and other European contributors can be especially proud of this achievement.

It is fitting that on this the German-American tricentennial a German astronaut is part of the shuttle team. The shuttle is demonstrating that technology can be used to bring people together in a new spirit of enterprise and cooperation to better their lives, ensure the peace of mankind.

I know Chancellor Kohl agrees with me that this shuttle mission, with its German and American crew, represents the highest aspirations of our two peoples. Chancellor Kohl, this is a great day. Perhaps you could give us your thoughts on this marvelous occasion.

The Chancellor. Thank you very much, Mr. President. It is a terrific experience for us to be able to talk together this way and to talk to the crew as well. Above all, I would like to send my best wishes to my countryman. Dear Herr Merbold, I would like to take this opportunity to assure you and your colleagues, your team members, that I and all countrymen in Germany have, with great excitement and pride, been following your flight for days now.

We are proud, indeed, that your participation in this highly successful experiment is, at this time, demonstrating in such an impressive way the close ties between Europe and the United States and that it shows, once again, that we Europeans are in fact able to hold our own in terms of technology of the future. This U.S.-European shuttle mission is, indeed, a convincing proof of the closeness between Europe and the United States.

President Reagan has already pointed out that it is an exceedingly happy circumstance of which, of course, we are very much aware that it is possible at this time to have a German scientist, a European astronaut as a member of the crew at this particular time—at the time of the tricentennial celebrations of German-American relations, remembering the time when the first Germans came to the United States.

I am especially happy that our countryman Ulf Merbold is aboard the shuttle at this time. We hope that this joint enterprise will indeed lead to further successful cooperation between the United States and the Europeans in the area of space research, and I would like to tell you, Mr. Merbold, and you crewmembers that I hope you will have a healthy and happy return to your families.

Commander Young. Mr. President and Mr. Chancellor, we're delighted that you could visit with us today in the space shuttle Columbia and visit with us in the Spacelab. We're standing—or rather, floating in the Spacelab right now, and I'd be very pleased to introduce my fine crew. They performed in a totally outstanding manner throughout this mission, and I expect big things, scientifically and technically, to come from the results.

The pilot is Major Brewster Shaw. He's up on the mid-deck right now, along with mission specialists Dr. Robert Parker and Dr. Owen Garriott. Back here in Spacelab with me is Byron Lichtenberg—Dr. Byron Lichtenberg and Dr. Ulf Merbold. Byron will now give you a short tour around the Spacelab.

Dr. Merbold. Guten tag, Herr Bundeskanzler. Dr. Lichtenberg. Good morning, Mr. President.

The Chancellor. Hello, Mr. Merbold.

The President. Good morning.

Dr. Lichtenberg. We'd like to take a little bit of time to tell you a little bit about the science that we've been doing here on board Spacelab. I'll give you a brief tour from this end of the Spacelab module.

We've been doing several experiments in many different disciplines. Some of those use equipment that is mounted in a pallet outside the back of the Spacelab, and we control these through control panels here in the Spacelab. Other experiments are done inside the module, using equipment here.

And on my right, we have a rack of dedicated life-sciences experiments in which we do experiments in plant growth and a variety of experiments in the adaptation of the human being to weightlessness. We are particularly interested in looking at the vestibular system, the inner ear, and how a person adapts to the weightless environment of space life.

Other experiments we do utilize a scientific air lock here in front of me, and we have several experiments from Europe that we have put into this air lock and deployed into space.

The first one is an experiment to investigate the Earth's magnetic field lines and what happens when we inject a beam of electrons into the Earth's atmosphere to create artificial northern lights, or aurora borealis. There's another experiment, called the very wide field camera, which comes from a French aerospace laboratory, to take ultraviolet pictures of the stars. Both of these experiments have performed extremely well, and we have been able to deploy them into space repeatedly to take measurements.

I'd like to turn it over now to Ulf, and he'll continue the tour of the Spacelab. Thank you, sir.

Commander Young. I'd like to say to Ulf that German-American relations have never been better aboard Spacelab. They're great.

Dr. Merbold. Good morning, Mr. President. Gruss Gott, Herr Bundeskanzler. I might quickly move over to one of the facilities here which we have on board to process all sorts of materials, particularly crystals, new alloys, and I think that is particularly important for application.

We might be able to create new semiconductors for the electronic industry. We have one experiment here to create new materials for turbine blades, such that airplane engines could run at higher temperatures, which would save a lot of fuel. And so, we are trying to do a lot of things to make life in the future easier and better.

Commander Young. And if you gentlemen have any questions, we'd be certainly glad to answer them, either here or on the mid-deck.

The President. I don't know whether the Chancellor has any questions.

The Chancellor. Thank you very much, Herr Merbold, for this brief introduction which, of course, has been most impressive for someone like me who is not an expert.

My most important question is to you.

How do you feel? How do you manage?

Dr. Merbold. [Answers in German]1

1 The remarks were not translated by the interpreter.

The Chancellor. Millions of your countrymen, Mr. Merbold, are thinking of you and wish you and your crewmembers all the best.

Dr. Merbold. Thank you.

The President. I have one question, if I could. What do you see as the greatest potential for the use of space?

Commander Young. Mr. President, I see it as a place where humanity can live and work and make things better for people on Earth.

The President. Well, I'd like to take this opportunity to congratulate the entire crew. You're doing a fantastic job, and we're proud of you. Your energy, creativity, and your courage are an inspiration to us all.

It's hard to believe, when looking at the highly sophisticated project we've just witnessed, that it was just over 25 years ago that the United States launched its first satellite, a 31-pound, cylinder-shaped projectile named Explorer I. Shortly after that, NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, was created to make sure mankind got every benefit possible from the exploration of space.

Our investment in space has been an exceptional bargain. Byproducts now touch our lives in so many ways. This hookup, as well as the calls every day of millions of people around the world, are made via communications satellites. Weather and navigation satellites guide us and help us protect our lives and property. The high-tech spin-offs of our space effort are too numerous to list. The experiments on this shuttle mission will add to the treasury of human knowledge and be put to practical use improving our lives right here on Earth.

This mission is also a shining example of international cooperation at its best. The Spacelab we've just toured was a gift to the United States from our European friends. Building on that good will, this is the first time a citizen from another country has joined one of our space missions as a member of the crew. It is an exciting first. It must be particularly exciting for our German friends.

Chancellor Kohl, I just want to tell you that it's such an honor for us to be together in demonstrating to the world that when people are free and work together, there's nothing that can't be accomplished. Together the free people of the world with the use of technology are building a world of prosperity and peace never imaginable a few decades ago.

Chancellor Kohl, perhaps you have some parting thoughts.

The Chancellor. Mr. President, I would like to thank you very much for your kind words. I thank you primarily for the fact that you have done us the honor to select our countryman to participate in this team. That was a great honor for the Germans and the Europeans, as well.

I would like to congratulate the entire crew on their mission and on the excellent scientific results which they have been able to achieve. This is, in fact, an effort which furthers peace. It has been made possible by the cooperation between Europe and the United States. And we do hope that our future will be similar, that it will be characterized by cooperation between the two sides of the Atlantic.

Herr Merbold, to you and your crewmembers, our best wishes for a happy return. I would like to also tell you that we hope that your scientific results will be impressive. And I hope, for the sake of all of us, that what you will bring back from this mission will indeed contribute to further development of science and technology in the interest and the service of peace and mankind.

And finally—and I think that's probably the most important—I'd like to express my best wishes for all your families. And I hope that Frau Merbold and her children and the wives and children of your team are—our best wishes are with them as well.

The President. Thank you. And Commander Young—John Young, do you have anything you would like to say?

Commander Young. We certainly appreciate your taking the time to come and visit with us. We've certainly enjoyed talking to you about what we're going to do in space. And we think it'll be of great benefit and great significance. And we're delighted that you and the Chancellor have shown so much interest in the space program.

The President. Well, I thank Chancellor Kohl and you. And thank you, all of our astronauts. God bless you, and Godspeed on your journey home.

Note: The President spoke at 9:47 a.m. from the Oval Office at the White House. The Chancellor spoke in German, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

For a statement on the conclusion of the space shuttle mission, see page 1672.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks During a Conference Call With Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the Federal Republic of Germany and Crewmembers of the Space Shuttle Columbia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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